My son is four years old, and though I hate to admit it he watches a lot of YouTube. It’s our go-to diversionary tactic for short- or medium-length car rides. This means he might watch for 20, 30, even 45 minutes at a time.
I would like to curate a list of appropriate videos for kids aged 3-5 years for parents who allow that sort of thing but who want some level of say in what their kids watch.
I’m also proposing to document that list in a blog so parents can see why each video has been approved.
Ultimately, I think we’ll have better tools for this kind of process in the future – sort of networked sharing where algorithms take a back seat to friendly curation by organized actual humans.
There are some pitfalls to watch out for. Obviously not everyone approves of the same videos. What goes in and what’s culled is going to be up to us. We could set guidelines for our choices and parameters for the scope of what we’re going for (top 100 list or just a list of anything of value for which we can make a good case that it should be shared?), but you can probably imagine how tastes vary and evolve and how rules are made to be broken. You can also imagine how someone might try to hijack an effort like this as a prank or as a political act.
So, we should also take this as an opportunity to discuss how difficult human curation may be but also how important this kind of curation might be given that algorithms aren’t infallible.
Algorithms are making media decisions for us, and though we may not always make better choices and we can’t compete with these types of media controls in terms of scale (at least not yet), we might build curation networks around our most important concerns, starting with what our kids are exposed to and what they’re learning from.
Here’s the image I want to leave you with. I will sit down with Sammy and watch some interesting videos about monster trucks each painted a different color or carrying a different number on its side. To me, this is fine. This is like Sesame Street – bite-sized lessons about basic building blocks of communication and mathematics presented in messages that a young child can easily consume.
–But (and you knew that “but” was coming) after three or four minutes of somewhat educational videos playing for Sammy in his car seat, I hear dinosaurs roaring and explosions going off and come to find that there’s a fire breathing dinosaur (as if!) battling a monster truck in a swamp all made hastily with cheap graphics carrying information that is confusing scientifically and of negative social value.
I mean, sure, sometimes a dinosaur has to solve his problems with violence, but tail smashes should be the last option.
So, can we use the power of a small network of smart people to curate a list of videos (perhaps a YouTube playlist) and then can we justify in a paragraph or two (perhaps through a shared WordPress site) the videos we like?
If we can do that, THEN, can we think of a platform or a process whereby all kinds of groups might be able to set up these lists? Can this be done in meaningful ways that aren’t already covered by Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter and with relatively easy-to-use interfaces for both the curators and the “audience”? What is our audience? Do we have one? How big might it be?
Finally, what are the ethical implications of this level of peer curation? Are we building a system to create echo chambers for kids? Might parents try to use this to limit what their kids are exposed to in ways that are relatively negative? (I’ve built my grandson Mason an ALL TRUMP CHANNEL so he can learn early about what’s really going on in this country.)
Do we worry about that when trying to build this kind of network tool?
I’m certain there’s a use for this. It definitely comes with caveats, but this is my proposal that we make a prototype for networked curation on a small scale which could be coupled with documentation explaining our choices so there’s could be a level of transparency and thoughtful reasoning behind media curation, at least where we care to set it up.